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Casa de la Guerra
Architectural History

The Casa as it would have originally looked. Watercolor by Henry Lenny.

Built during a time when the average residence was a one or two-room adobe with perhaps a small attached wooden lean-to, the Casa de la Guerra, with its u-shaped design, central courtyard and raised porch was an example of an unusually affluent home.  With its large courtyard, nearby gardens, manufacturing area and onsite store, the Casa functioned as a residence for the family but also served a diverse community. Built to rehouse the growing de la Guerra family, who previously lived in the Presidio’s Commandant’s quarters, the Casa was continuously remodeled to fit changing family needs and the prevailing style of the period.


The first major series of alterations were made by Pablo de la Guerra to repair damage caused by the 1857 Fort Tejon earthquake, and included some cosmetic updates. At this time the family altered the doors and windows, replaced the adobe porch columns with wood, enclosed portions of the porch and covered portions of the adobe walls in fashionable wood siding. 


At the family’s request the house was remodeled again in 1910-14 by Francis Underhill. Underhill restored the adobe exterior, added electricity and introduced craftsman-style finishes.

Beginning in 1922, by arrangement with the de la Guerra family, Bernhard Hoffman began constructing the El Paseo complex onto the back of the Casa and adapted two wings of the home into shops. The complex was designed in the increasingly popular Spanish Colonial Revival Style, and the Casa was remodeled yet again to blend with the new design. Following the devastating June 29, 1925, earthquake in Santa Barbara, the Casa and El Paseo served as models for rebuilding parts of the downtown. Jose’s granddaughter Delfina moved out of the East wing of the Casa in 1943. At that time, the last private family rooms of the Casa became part of El Paseo.

Casa de la Guerra circa 1880. Courtesy of the Presidio Research Center.

The Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation was gifted El Paseo and Casa de la Guerra in 1971. In 1989 SBTHP sold El Paseo and retained ownership over the Casa. In 1990, SBTHP began a program of research and archaeological work to determine the structural history of the Casa, with particular emphasis on its original configuration. SBTHP archaeologists conducted above ground excavations of the property, uncovering a rich collection of artifacts and making surprising discoveries about the original configuration of the adobe, and its many layers of history. Restoration of the Casa to its original configuration during José de la Guerra’s lifetime (1828- 1858) was conducted in phases until its completion in 2006. Whenever possible, SBTHP protected historic fabric during the restoration process, and used materials and building methods similar to the originals. You can view an online exhibit about the Casa restoration here.

Casa de la Guerra is a City Landmark, a California Landmark, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, SBTHP operates the adobe home as a museum featuring furnished period rooms, a history of the de la Guerra family, and rotating exhibits. An iconic monument to Santa Barbara's Hispanic heritage, the Casa and the adjoining Plaza de la Guerra are still the focal point for numerous civic celebrations and special events throughout the year.


The East Wing of the Casa during restoration by SBTHP. Courtesy of the Presidio Archaeology Lab

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